I am feeling quite familiar with Jodie Fox and her customised shoe design website, Shoes of Prey, before we even catch up on Skype.
Jodie hails from Lismore in NSW and the company she launched with Michael Fox and Mike Knapp in 2009 is going gangbusters.
The 31-year-old business woman is a lawyer, an ex-advertising account manager and a consumate media performer. I know what she packs for international business trips, that she has more than 150 pairs of shoes and can run the 3kms from Bondi-to-Bronte in a pair of 4.5 inch Shoes of Prey gladiator sandals. Jodie Fox is all over YouTube.
Welcome to the world of the successful start-up – getting your brand in front of as many eye balls as possible.
The Shoes of Prey trio appear to have pulled off the start-up trifecta – identifying a market niche (customised women’s shoes in the affordable luxury segment), offering a great shopping experience (easy-to-use 3D shoe design software and exceptional customer service) and forensic analysis of online data and channels (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) to market and promote their brand worldwide.
Awarded the 2013 Australian Retailers Association online retailer of year, the company won its first global innovation award before it reached its first birthday.
“We came up with the idea in late 2008 and started to work on it really sincerely in 2009,” Jodie says.
Both Michaels were working at Google and Jodie was with advertising agency Campaign Palace when they left their jobs and invested in a dream they had shared since meeting at law school in Queensland a decade ago.
Michael Fox set up the supplier processes, Michael Knapp, the Chief Technology Officer, designed the website including the 3D software and Jodie focused on the brand.
“When we went live with the site in October there were only three of us”.
The Sydney-based business has since expanded to a team of 40 with 15 employees based in China working directly with their supplier who makes every pair of individually designed shoes to order. They offer free worldwide shipping and it takes about two-and-a-half weeks for the orders to be fulfilled. Most of their customers are located in the U.S and the U.K.
In mid-2012 they raised three million dollars from a syndicate of investors across Australia and the U.S.
“The path to fundraising is always a bit of a tricky one,” says Jodie “For us it was really important that we had people who were aligned in terms of our values but also in terms of the intelligence gaps that we needed to fill in the business. So it was about cash and brains.”
A push into David Jones in Sydney, where they have a concession store to showcase their product and help customers design their “dream shoes”, has also worked well but there are no plans to open more off-shore stores for now.
While they don’t disclose commercial information, such as customer numbers or revenue, in the last 12 months the business has grown by 300 per cent.
“Women have spent more than 100 million minutes designing shoes with us – that’s nearly eight years designing shoes non-stop which is really exciting.”
The company vision is that every woman can have the perfect shoe and it’s achieved via the endless options available via the site.
“Customisation is set to become the way that we purchase all of our products,” predicts Jodie.
“We were very much pioneering in the mass customisation of women’s shoes when we launched four years ago and the first to market. It is a very exciting thing for us to be working on and we are still very much the market leader in that space,” she says.
Another key facet of the brand is customer satisfaction. According to Jodie it’s absolutely crucial.
“It is not just about attracting customers but keeping customers as well,” she says. A team of “customer happiness wonder people” will do anything to make Shoes of Prey customers happy.
“They are at the coal face of our business and our brand.”
However, when most of your customers are based in the Northern hemisphere, Jodie admits that Sydney can represent a tyranny of distance.
“We would like to build an office closer to our customers (which) would require some work to happen on the ground in the future.”
Which leads to the inevitable question – when will they sell, or better still list on the ASX?
“Up to six months ago I would have been really clear about our exit plans but I really do love what I do,” says Jodie.
“We still have an eye for very lean high growth and we are still very committed to the big dreams that we have for the company.”
Watch Jodie run from Bondi to Bronte in heels: